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Johnathan Blake: The Eleventh Hour

C. Michael Bailey By

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Track review of "Dexter’s Tune"

Jazz violinist John Blake, Jr.'s son, drummer Johnathan Blake, makes his debut on Sunnyside Records with The Eleventh Hour. While the leader, this recording does not have any of the hallmarks of a drummer-led date. Blake is careful not to crowd his band, making his mark as solid understatement, a seasoning that imparts just the right percussive flavor to the combo's performance. He also paints across an expansive landscape, drawing from a wide expanse of music, summoning the last 60 years readily to his fingertips.

Blake likes to slice things close between the mainstream and freer jazz forms . In the midst of this edgy and modern jazz outing, Blake stumbles upon singer/songwriter Randy Newman's "Dexter's Tune" from the soundtrack to the 1990 film Awakenings. This is a simple movie ballad, on that, while not melodramatic, is nevertheless memorable, as modern movie soundtracks prove to be a similarly bottomless source of material as the Tin Pan Alley and Broadway show tunes of the 1920s and '30s.

Newman's performance is solo piano accented with muted strings, but Blake leads a relatively traditional quartet treatment with tenor saxophonist Mark Turner waxing poetic on its simple, yet beautiful and elegant melody. Pianist Kevin Hays follows Turner's lead, lightly buffeting his lyrical lines, while Blake provides percussion that is a study in subtle layers of rhythm and time.

This is mainstream jazz performed in a straight-ahead manner that clarifies what Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz were trying to say all along.

Track Listing: The Eleventh Hour; Rio's Dream; Blue News; Dexter's Tune; Time To Kill; Of Things To Come; Freefall; No Left Turn; Clues; Canvas.

Personnel: Johnathan Blake: drums; Mark Turner: tenor saxophone (1-4, 6-10); Jaleel Shaw: alto saxophone (1, 2, 5-7, 9); Ben Street: bass; Kevin Hayes: piano, Fender Rhodes (2-4, 7-9); Gregoire Maret: harmonica (1, 10); Robert Glasper: piano; Fender Rhodes (1, 5, 10); Timothy Warfield: tenor saxophone (8); Tom Harrell (3, 5).

Title: The Eleventh Hour | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records


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